This week at The L Magazine, I take a look at two staff shows in the city. I have mixed, but generally positive feelings about them.
When French philosopher Jacques Rancière studied primary source materials from industrial workers in 19th-century France, he found they had surprisingly busy intellectual lives. Despite days spent performing manual labor, many workers had an active desire to participate in politics, culture, and philosophy, writing poetry, newspaper articles, and journals in their free time. One hundred years later, can we still make the same observations about workers?
Three handlers at Jack Shainman seem to think so, and have organized the exhibition HiJack! around the notion that inside many ordinary workers live eager artists. To my mind, though, it depends on the field. When I worked in a large wire fabrication plant for six years, my co-workers just wanted to lead uninspired Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. But the two years I spent art handling in New York were different. Most handlers I knew were artists and active participants in the art world, and therefore had a stake in the art they hung.
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